Juan Thornhill may be a late second-round pick, but he’s been given a real chance to make a major impact in 2019 for the Chiefs.
The Kansas City Chiefs are looking to recover from a 31st ranked defense in 2018 as a team with plenty of holes across the board. With a pair of second-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Chiefs used their second such choice (No. 63 overall) on Virginia safety Juan Thornhill—a prospect who could be Kansas City’s secret weapon on defense.
Thornhill was one of the most dominant defensive backs in college football during his time at Virginia. In his final season with the Cavaliers, Thornhill collected six interceptions and amassed 149 return yards. The six picks ties for third most while his 149 yards were fifth most in college football in 2018. Those totals helped Thornhill earn First Team All-ACC honors.
The last Chiefs player to surpass 149 interception return yards in a season was cornerback Marcus Peters, who had 280 off eight interceptions in 2015 during his rookie year. Prior to Peters, linebacker Derrick Johnson did it in 2009 with 175 yards off three interceptions.
Thornhill concluded his college career with 13 interceptions for 177 yards and 26 pass deflections. Although he never saw the end zone, Thornhill was vital in helping Virginia’s offense enter with great field position.
If Thornhill’s performance carries over in Kansas City, he will help Kansas City’s offense come in with great field position as well. This is the same offense led by Patrick Mahomes, coming off of an MVP season of 50 touchdown passes and 5,097 yards while leading an offense that generated the third highest scoring output in NFL history.
The old adage says, “The best defense is a good offense.” Thornhill’s ability to come up with a takeaway and stay on his feet to extend plays will help Kansas City’s offense in 2019 and beyond. His 40-time of 4.42 was 22nd among all combine participants and 10th among defensive backs, showing why he was in the top five in return yards his senior year.
Thornhill will team up with newly acquired safety Tyrann Mathieu as he will have a dominant defensive line, which includes Frank Clark and Chris Jones, collecting 28.5 sacks between the two. Thornhill will also be guided by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. All of which will help Thornhill succeed as a rookie.
The Chiefs have plenty of young, bright-eyed talent from the 2019 draft class. Don’t be surprised if Thornhill is voted as the Mack Lee Hill recipient after the season.